A RUGBY test debut against the might of South Africa would be daunting enough at the best of times.
But try 50 years ago when the Spingboks and Wallabies played in the one of the most controversial sporting contests ever seen in Australia - possibly only matched by the infamous Bodyline cricket tour of 1932/33.
Taree-born Geoff 'Richo' Richardson, now 71 and living on the Gold Coast, was fly half for the Wallabies in all three tests. South Africa were among the strongest rugby nations on the planet with Australia a lesser light - the code's ranks regularly decimated by raiding rugby league clubs. However, at least the home side could normally rely on strong home town support.
That wasn't necessarily the case back in 1971. The Australian Rugby Union was under pressure to cancel the tour due to South Africa's apartheid system - a system of institutionalised racial segregation.
Protesters followed the Springboks around the country attempting to disrupt games, including the tests.
Smoke bombs were hurled onto the field, whistles were blown incessantly throughout the game, barbed wire separated the players from the crowd. It was ugly.
"Paint em black and send em back," protesters chanted long and loud.
Richardson started rugby after moving to Newcastle teachers college after playing junior rugby league in Taree. He was soon making representative sides for Newcastle, the ACT, NSW Country and NSW.
These were the days of National Service and Richardson was called into the army, relocating to Queensland, where his rugby career flourished.
He played for Queensland Country and then Queensland to be in line for Australian selection. He was in a Queensland Country side that upset the British Lions and the Lions went from there to win a series against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
"Phil Hawthorne had switched to league a couple of years before and Johnny Ballasty went over the previous year,'' Richardson, who was back in his home town for a brief visit, explained.
"NSW really didn't have a five-eighth, so I was given a shot.''
While admitting it wasn't the best political climate to be making an international debut, Richardson said the Australians were somewhat removed from the controversy.
"The demonstrators were protesting against the Springboks outside their motels and hotels. So they had a pretty restricted tour,'' he recalled.
"Some big accommodation chains wouldn't put them up. Some of the major airways wouldn't fly them and they had to charter smaller planes. But the demonstrators weren't concentrating on us.''
The first test at the SCG was jam packed with rugby followers and others with no interest in the game.
"That was noisy,'' Richardson said.
"Demonstrators were blowing whistles and throwing smoke bombs onto the field. Police then hurled the smoke bombs back into the crowd.
"But at the SCG the players are so far away from the crowd - that's why it's not a good field for football, so it didn't really affect us.''
Richardson said the players weren't worried about the safety issue.
"But people questioned me sternly as to why I was playing against the Springboks,'' he added.
"And I was also in the army uniform at the time of demonstrations against the Vietnam war. So I copped it from both sides.''
The second test was in Brisbane and Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen declared a State of Emergency to counter the demonstrations. The game was moved from Ballymore to the Brisbane Exhibition Ground where it was deemed to be safer.
"Because of the State of Emergency we'd go to games and to training with a police escort,'' Richardson said.
"It was certainly different.
"By then the demonstrators worked out that if they bought tickets then the money was going to the Australian Rugby Union. And there were so many police and barbed wire and things in the ground that they weren't stopping the games anyway.
"They then decided to demonstrate outside and not pay to go in. So the second and third tests were relatively uneventful.''
Not that this did the Wallabies much good on the scoreboard, as the Boks won the series 3-0.
"They were strong, although if you look at the scores, we weren't thrashed,'' Richardson said.
(South Africa won the first test 19-11, the second 14-6 and the third 18-6).
Because of the State of Emergency we'd go to games and to training with a police escort...It was certainly differentGeoff Richardson
"But they were physically strong and generally Aussie forward packs in those days weren't getting good ball. So some of the ball we got in the backs wasn't great to play with.''
He partnered John Hipwell - one of the greats of Australia Rugby - in the halves.
"Hippy was the best footballer I ever played with and that's league and union,'' Richardson said.
"Unfortunately for him, he played in a lot of Australian sides that came second.''
Richardson thought his own form in the series was solid, if not spectacular. He went on to play nine tests for the Wallabies from 1971 to 1973.
"I left Taree at 17 and rugby allowed me to see the world,'' he said.
Money lured Richardson back to rugby league and the West Panthers club in Brisbane. He represented Queensland against NSW and played in two test matches during the series against Great Britain in 1974.
He retired after playing a leading role in Wests premiership win in 1976. He was only 27.